Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Save the date: a pulsar and a giant star are due to meet in 2018

This is going to be a highly anticipated meeting with plenty of fireworks, though be glad we are far enough away to enjoy the view safely.

Pulsars are rotating neutron stars, the leftover remnants of stars that once shone and were more massive than our sun. Pulsars "pulse" because they emit highly directional "beams" of electromagnetic energy from their poles, and we detect this every time they rotate and the beam crosses our path. This can happen thousands of times per second, making them excellent timekeepers!

Stars come in different sizes, and the one of interest in 2018 is about 15 times as massive as our sun. It is in the constellation Cygnus and is about 5,000 light years away from us. This star has a binary companion, a pulsar, that will actually move through its outer atmosphere in 2018. The orbit is fairly long at 25 years.

Check out the NASA press release for more information.

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